Formula feeding potentiates docosahexaenoic and arachidonic acid biosynthesis in term and preterm baboon neonates

Eszter Sarkadi-Nagy, Vasuki Wijendran, Guan Yeu Diau, Angela Chueh Chao, Andrea T. Hsieh, Anu Turpeinen, Peter Lawrence, Peter W. Nathanielsz, J. Thomas Brenna

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43 Scopus citations


Infant formulas supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are now available in the United States; however, little is known about the factors that affect biosynthesis. Baboon neonates were assigned to one of four treatments: term, breast-fed; term, formula-fed; preterm (155 of 182 days gestation), formula-fed; and preterm, formula+DHA/ARA-fed. Standard formula had no DHA/ARA; supplemented formula had 0.61%wt DHA (0.3% of calories) and 1.21%wt ARA (0.6% of calories), and baboon breast milk contained 0.68 ± 0.22%wt DHA and 0.62 ± 0.12%wt ARA. At 14 days adjusted age, neonates received a combined oral dose of [U- 13C]α-linolenic acid (LNA*) and [U- 13C]linoleic acid (LA*), and tissues were analyzed 14 days after dose. Brain accretion of linolenic acid-derived DHA was ∼3-fold greater for the formula groups than for the breast-fed group, and dietary DHA partially attenuated excess DHA synthesis among preterms. A similar, significant pattern was found in other organs. Brain linoleic acid-derived ARA accretion was significantly greater in the unsupplemented term group but not in the preterm groups compared with the breast-fed group. These data show that formula potentiates the biosynthesis/accretion of DHA/ARA in term and preterm neonates compared with breast-fed neonates and that the inclusion of DHA/ARA in preterm formula partially restores DHA/ARA biosynthesis to lower, breast-fed levels. Current formula DHA concentrations are inadequate to normalize long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids synthesis to that of breast-fed levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-80
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of lipid research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Isotope ratio mass spectrometry
  • Stable isotope tracers
  • n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • n-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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